Asking a human to practice social distancing is probably one of the most difficult things to do. We are, by nature, very social creatures. But as we all know, social distancing is effective in slowing down the spread of COVID-19.
Being in isolation unfortunately also has its downside.
According to an article in Science Alert, socially isolated people are less able to deal with stressful situations. They're also more likely to feel depressed and may have problems processing information. This, in turn, can lead to difficulties with decision-making and memory storage and recall.
The article goes on to explain that “the impacts of social isolation become worse when people are placed in physically isolating environments. For example, solitary confinement can have negative psychological effects on prisoners – including significant increases in anxiety and panic attacks, increased levels of
paranoia, and being less able to think clearly”.
It is no wonder then that authorities find it so difficult to enforce a quarantine.
ScienceInsider reports that although the effects of short-term social distancing haven’t been well studied, social contacts can buffer the negative effects of stress. Having a friend present can reduce a person’s cardiovascular response to a stressful situation, for example. A researcher who was interviewed for the above article was concerned that enforced quarantines will not only exacerbate things for those who are already isolated and lonely but could be a triggering point for others to withdraw. This means that more people will become socially withdrawn once the quarantines are over.
Chris Segrin, a behavioral scientist at the University of Arizona, says that it’s important to remember that not everyone is going into this with the same level of mental health. “Someone who is already having problems with, say, social anxiety, depression, loneliness, substance abuse, or other health problems is going to be particularly vulnerable.”
Events help build cohesiveness and thanks to the virus and the action governments are taking, many events around the world have been canceled or postponed. For many people, the growing list of canceled events represents another coping mechanism they’ll have to temporarily get by without.
A recent review of research, published in The Lancet, found that quarantine is linked with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, confusion, and anger, with some research suggesting these effects are long-lasting. Given that the COVID-19 crisis is likely to be with us for some time, the mental health implications can’t be dismissed.
According to a recent article in Quartz, whether you are in quarantine or not, anxieties are only worsened by confusion and social judgment as people try to figure out the appropriate response. The article goes on to say that Psychiatry professor Rima Styra and her University of Toronto colleague Laura Hawryluck, a professor of critical care medicine, researched quarantines during the SARS outbreak and found that 29% of those quarantined showed signs of PTSD, and 31% had symptoms of depression following isolation.
Frank McAndrew, an evolutionary psychologist at Knox College in Illinois who was interviewed for the article said “Being quarantined gives one a sense of being at the mercy of other people and other uncontrollable forces such as an epidemic. This leads to a feeling of helplessness and uncertainty about the future that can be very unsettling.”
With all the above in mind, let’s look at some things you can do during a quarantine that can help to alleviate some of the stress you are feeling from being isolated:
* Activities that create a sense of change and purpose, such as rearranging the furniture or cleaning the house, can help create stimulation. Put on some happy music and get that mop out!
* Create a strict daily routine and stick to it, no matter what. Make your bed, tidy your room and keep doing your daily self-care routines as you did before the quarantine.
Include exercise in your daily routine. Skipping, stretches, yoga, jumping on a rebounder, etc. Anything to keep you fit and active. We love this daily 15 minute QiGong routine to help balance your energies. If you are not motivated to exercise, then partner with a friend online and help to motivate one another.
* Stay in daily contact with loved ones through apps like Skype, Whatsapp, etc. Many people who were forced to cancel their family holidays or reunions will find this time particularly stressful.
* If your diet wasn’t good before this, it’s a great time to start eating healthier. For many, their weekly visits to fast food outlets or restaurants have stopped. Take this opportunity to start paying closer attention to your diet. This is a great article to help you get started.
* Although you obviously want to stay up to date on the latest news about COVID-19, try to avoid spending too much time online reading everything there is to read about it. This will only serve to make you feel more panicked and stressed.
We hope these tips helped you and we’re sending you good vibes during this difficult time.
With best regards,
Leslie Maliepaard and Amour Setter
The Planet Calls